Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ten years of serving at The Brew Lounge, Part 5 - What's On Tap?

I'm back again with another installment for looking back on my sudsy journey through the last ten years of my work here at The Brew Lounge. The more I get into these retrospective postings, the less hesitant I've become shining a spotlight on where ten years of writing about beer has taken me — and you as the reader of these pages.

Ah, those bright-eyed early days of The Brew Lounge. I had so many crazy ideas of how to document, how to inform, and how spread interest around the craft brewing segment of the industry. One way was via What's On Tap, an extremely labor-intensive process of capturing draft lists, making sense of draft beer diversity, and communicating to consumers the availability of their favorite beers at some of the area's better watering holes.

It was in the pre-smartphone era and while the beer geeks were no less thirsty for information, I was a bit ahead of my time.

I can recall talking with bar owners and distributors about rfid tags, scales, etc. to help automate the information about keg inventory and beer levels. An improved information source for registered brands was an area of interest for me as well. All in efforts to better inform consumers about their draft beer choices when they hit the town. But hardly anyone was convinced that the investment was worthwhile - that consumers really didn't need, or want, that much information.

So I began with the best local draft selections closest to my house: The Flying Pig, The Drafting Room, Teresa's Next Door, and TJ's. I grabbed a few occasional lists from South Philly Tap Room, Dock Street, General Lafayette, and The Tiedhouse from time to time.

With my frequent travel and beer hunting through airports, I contributed mightily to the BeerMe.com website and its airport beer bar section. Ballpark beer lists also became a fixation for me. The piece I did back in 2006 about AT&T Park in San Francisco was referenced by an NBC affiliate and still remains one of The Brew Lounge's most viewed pages.

In both 2007 and 2008, I did a one-time analysis of roughly 20 bars and their available tap lists on one particular day which caught a lot of interest and attention from internet eyeballs.

For me, myself, and I, it was probably the most interesting thing I did with all these tap lists. First in 2007, there was this shot at capturing a one-day tap list.

Then, returning for more in 2008, I took this crack which was even better received. And the little piece of analysis that I did as follow-up got some nice mentions in the (more) popular press as well.

But yet, for all the attention they got, these What's On Tap pages weren't really bought in to circa 2005-2007. I couldn't find the right way to take it to the next level. While consumers, naturally, thought they were "neat" and useful, distributors, bar owners, brewers, and others in the industry, though, couldn't see the application for the information. They couldn't imagine that, while ravenous for different beer, beer geeks would really base their night-out decisions on what was on tap at a given time. After all, wasn't it simply enough to know that a given bar "always stocks a lot of great beer, so the customers are bound to find something appealing to them?"

A few more years go by and now we have PhillyTapFinder, Beer Menus, and numerous other sources to track down and track (and tick) beers. It's all an evolution as access to great beer continues to improve.

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